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GEORGE TOWN: Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), together with renowned Japanese research institute RIKEN Institute, are set to develop a joint institute focusing on ageing science, in efforts to drive research in the field.

USM Vice-Chancellor Prof Datuk Omar Osman recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the setting up of the USM-RIKEN International Centre for Ageing Science (URICAS), together with Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (2001) and RIKEN president Prof Ryoji Noyori.

URICAS coordinator Prof Mohd Nazalan Mohd Najimudin said USM and RIKEN had forged a collaboration spanning more than 20 years, beginning with the transfer of students to undertake research, until the latest agreement to set up URICAS.

"URICAS is very much needed and is good, as it will, academics-wise, provide a platform for the expansion of an interesting topic.

"The ageing process is a biological cycle that every human needs to face. Each one of us will become old and our bodies will go through changes dictated by time. Time in this context is also part of the biological process.

"In tandem with ageing, there are other unavoidable disorders such as old age, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, just to name a few," he said.

Nazalan also stated that scientists around the world have also discovered various genes which cause us to age.

On the setting up of the centre, Nazalan said the centre was in the process of forming, with focus now on the fundamentals, and stated that the present network of researchers in USM and RIKEN will be strengthen, with scientists having good relations with RIKEN encouraged to shift their research to ageing science.

"USM will also inject RM1 million each year for the development of URICAS, with one part of it to be used to give birth to academic at the post-doctorate level.

"Apart from that USM will choose the best students in the doctorate studies from all fields to be roped into the URICAS programme, for them to get funding to be part of the post-doctorate academia.

"We will also give opportunities to students presently undertaking an advanced degree programme to carry out research at RIKEN for three months each year, with the students to be jointly supervised by both USM and RIKEN lecturers," he added.

The signing ceremony was held at the RIKEN Wako campus in Tokyo, Japan, in conjunction with USM's official working visit to the century-old institute.

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